The Pagan Umbrella
I told +Niki Whiting I would expand on an earlier statement I made that Paganism = a religious + social/political outlook and that the political outlook mattered more.

Below isn't really a venn diagram, even though it appears to be one. At best, it's a bastardized version of one. It may help explain what I mean about who does, and doesn't, belong in the Pagan community.

Paganism is considered an umbrella term, but what that umbrella covers is widely debated. In most discussions of trying to define Paganism, there is a list of what it is not. Or it's several vague paragraphs. Or it's a definition of one religion, commonly a form of Wicca, that is defined. Most agree that religions unified under Paganism are not done so according to specific dogma or deities worshiped. OK. So what does unify us? What does the umbrella cover?

Looking at the community and how it interacts, I believe there are two unifying elements that are under the Pagan umbrella - the Wheel of the Year and a Progressive Sociopolitical outlook. One is religious and the other is cultural. The cultural component is the more important of the two. You don't have to have both, one will do, but if you don't fall in line with either, you are outside of the community. The sweet spot, those who define our culture, are where those two overlap. Think of all the Pagan community leaders, authors, and most of the Pagans you know. Do they have a Left leaning Sociopolitical outlook? Do they celebrate the Wheel of the Year? Both? Probably.

People have been trying to come up with a religious component that binds modern Pagans together for decades. Is it a nature or Earth based religion? Is it governed by the Rede? Those are probably the two most commonly proposed unifying traits of modern Paganism, yet neither hits the mark as they are dogma based descriptors in a non-dogmatic grouping of religions. But what about making the divide between those who celebrate the Wheel of the Year (8 evenly spaced holidays) and those who don't? Does that sound closer? I think so. Is it a hard and fast rule that everyone will agree to? No. Because of the cultural (Progressive politics) factor, which is the more important of the two.

Let me make four statements about Pagans, in general, and see if you agree with them.

Pagans ...
Celebrate the Wheel of the Year and subscribe to left leaning politics.
or
Don't celebrate the Wheel of the Year and subscribe to left leaning politics, but they probably aren't very involved in the Pagan community.
or
Can even be atheists IF they subscribe to left leaning (especially environmental) politics.
or
If you Celebrate the Wheel of the Year, but don't subscribe to Left leaning politics, you are on the fringe of the community, but still included.

When a subset of atheists (and I have nothing against them at all) are under a religious umbrella, you get the idea that religion is not the most important unifying feature of a group. The people who are active and thrive within the community are those celebrate the Wheel and are culturally left.

However, you are not part of the Pagan community if you ...
Don't celebrate the Wheel of the Year and don't subscribe to left leaning politics.

Before you jump in and say how open, welcoming, and accepting the Pagan community is, let me agree with you. It is open. And welcoming. And accepting. But if you posit a person who has no (or very few) religious practices in common with most members of a religious group AND has an opposite cultural (political) views than most other members of the group, yet still belongs in said group, pause and think about that for a moment. You are saying it doesn't matter if we have anything at all in common. That there is nothing that binds us together other than not being Christian. That's not enough to bind a community together.

Heathens are building very strong, vibrant communities. They are thriving and most are doing so far away from the Pagan community. Other polytheists are doing the same. When asked, some refuse the Pagan label, others don't care, some embrace it. Here's the key, though. Even out of those who say they embrace the term, they have almost nothing to do with the Pagan community. They are busy in their specific religious community. I look at people's actions, more than their words, as an indicator of thier true thoughts and values.

Pagans, Heathens, and other polytheists are close allies, though. We do need to band together on specific civil and religious rights projects. We can share knowledge of our spirituality and all be the richer for it. We can laugh together, attend festivals, join each other for worship. Help each other build shared infrastructure. Our differences shouldn't tear us apart, especially if we acknowledge them and respect them.
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